New rule allows members of most Northampton committees to participate in meetings remotely

Thursday, February 20, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Members of committees, boards and other governmental bodies in the city will be able to participate in meetings remotely when needed under new rules authorized by Mayor David J. Narkewicz earlier this month.

Under the rules, which are spelled out by the state attorney general’s office, members of multiple-member bodies can participate remotely if the chairman of the committee determines that physical attendance is unreasonably difficult. Such participation will be based on one of the following issues: personal illness or disability, an emergency, military service or geographic distance.

A multiple-member body is any council, commission, committee, subcommittee or other body consisting of two or more people, though the city charter does not include the City Council, School Committee or advisory committees appointed by the mayor as multiple-member bodies.

The council will consider adding remote participation requirements to its council rules, and an order presented by Vice President Jesse M. Adams at Thursday’s meeting is expected to be referred to the Committee on Rules, Orders, Appointments and Ordinances.

Remote participation will be allowed only if there is a physical quorum of a body at a meeting location. Members participating off-site would be allowed to vote. Such participation is limited to six times per year. Such participation can be done by telephone, Internet or satellite audio or video conferencing, and all members must be able to clearly hear one another.

Narkewicz is expected to explain the new rule at Thursday’s City Council meeting, which begins with public comment at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building.

In other business, the council will consider:

∎ A public hearing at 7:05 p.m. to allow National Grid to install a power pole on South Street near Columbus Avenue.

∎ The appointment of Alan Verson of 508 Kennedy Road as an associate member of the Planning Board and the reappointments of Mari-Jon Adams-Pullan, Michael Parsons and Rosemary Schmidt to the Board of Public Works.

∎ A financial request to spend $3,000 from a Cronin family gift account for scholarships to participants of Recreation Department programs.

∎ Two financial orders authorizing the superintendent of schools to submit a letter of interest to the state School Building Authority for funding to fix roofs at R.K. Finn Ryan Road and Leeds schools.

∎ An order to use $18,000 in leftover money from a $75,000 detention basin project at Bridge Street School to replace bathroom stalls at the school.

∎ An order authorizing the mayor to sell a surplus parcel on Meadow Street near the Florence Recreation Fields and use the money for improvements or maintenance at the fields.

∎ An addition to council rules that allows councilors who are not members of council subcommittees to attend such meetings and participate as members of the public.